Throughout history the Messianic faith has had to stand its ground against Bible criticism, historical research, and of course, attacks of the rabbis: all trying to refute the fact of Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead. While each and every one of us will be here only for a short time, for a few decades, our lives are like a “layover”, or an exam, if you like, but the Messiah is unique; an exception, because he conquered death.
Yeshua’s resurrection is without a doubt one of the greatest miracles in history. Or … the most clever deception that fooled millions of people.
Many have tried to refute the fact of Yeshua’s resurrection from the dead. All of this because if Yeshua did indeed rise from the dead, it would mean that he really is the Messiah and that the NT is right. And if Yeshua did not rise from the dead? Then we and millions of others are living in an illusion.
According to the Bible, the life, death and resurrection of the Jew Yeshua from Nazareth split time in two. His crucifixion became the most famous death in history and caused a revolution that started in Jerusalem and reached the ends of the earth. Three days after his death and burial Yeshua rose from the dead and his grave was found empty. After this it is told that within 40 days he appeared to many people throughout all of Israel, including groups of more than 500 people.
The rumor about the Jewish Messiah who died for man’s sin, conquered death and rose again started to spread fast.
The Romans couldn’t explain the fact that his body had disappeared from the grave. On the other hand, the rabbis during Yeshua’s time claimed that Yeshua performed supernatural miracles and wonders by the power of Satan. The problem with this claim is that God would not raise a false Messiah from the dead, for the Eternal One of Israel hates falsehood.
Many skeptics tried to come up with theories on this matter. We collected them and now will go through them – one by one.
MAYBE ALL OF THIS NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED?Maybe this was made up hundreds of years later? The problem with this is that contemporary historians including Yeshua’s enemies do mention him and this event. Besides all this, natural science also confirms the historicity of the event as described in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew, describing the crucifixion of Yeshua states the following:
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” (Matthew 27:45 & 51-52)
In his book “Pontius Pilate”, Dr. Paul Maier, an historian at Harvard University, quotes from a letter written by Tiberius to prefect Pontius Pilate. This letter was written around 30 AD. Look at what he writes:
“What I wanted to ask you about is the mysterious celestial incident that occurred Friday afternoon after the month of April. A thick darkness moved towards us coming from the southeastern horizon of the Mediterranean Sea, and darkened our skies for several hours.” (Dr. Paul Maier, “Pontius Pilate”, p. 244)
Dr. Paul Maier adds that Pontius Pilate answered in a letter:
“Regarding the darkness, it indeed covered all of Judah during the indicated time. However, the local astrologer simply can’t explain it. The darkness was accompanied by an earthquake. Still, the darkness continues to be a complete mystery.” (p. 244)
Therefore, both science and history support the record that the day of Yeshua’s crucifixion was a strange day. Just like the NT says.
Okay, so all of this happened.
MAYBE THEY JUST CHECKED THE WRONG GRAVE?If that was the case, the Roman rulers and the rabbis would have quickly pointed out the right grave.
MAYBE THE APPEARANCE OF YESHUA WAS SIMPLY A HALLUCINATION IN SOME INTOXICATED MINDS?Maybe that could happen to a small group of people. But to hundreds, even thousands of people, over a period of 40 days? Also, this would not explain where the corpse went.
SO, MAYBE YESHUA SIMPLY PASSED OUT FOR A WHILE AND LATER RECOVERED?See for example what rabbi Daniel Asor says:
“And who says that Yeshu simply experienced clinical death and woke up in the grave and regained consciousness? Do we have a way to disprove this? Maybe, at this time, they did not determine death properly? And he was just not actually dead?”
The eyewitnesses of the NT knew very well the circumstances of the resurrection. According to the Jewish tradition, Yeshua’s body was wrapped in shrouds and anointed with spices. About 40 kilos of spices and resin were mixed together, forming a thick, sticky texture, like rubber, which hardened on the body. The opening of the grave was blocked with an enormous stone, weighing two tons. In the wake of the uproar that took place in Jerusalem during Yeshua’s crucifixion the religious leaders, the Pharisees, remembered that Yeshua spoke about rising to life after three days. They certainly made sure that their people would keep an eye on the grave. Moreover, they demanded that Pilate should station soldiers to guard the grave. Along with the Roman guards the grave was sealed with a Roman seal. Had someone dared to move the stone from the grave the seal would have been broken and the transgressor would have had to face the wrath of the Roman rulers. And the guards, failing to protect the grave, would have been punished.
Also from a philosophical standpoint this theory doesn’t make sense. Consider what the scientist David Strauss wrote about 200 years ago:
“This idea that a creature creeping out of his own grave, ‘half dead’, sick and weak, in urgent need of medical treatment, clothing, recuperation and support, would succeed to awake in his disciples the impression of being the Prince of Life and conqueror of death and grave; an impression that was the foundation of their future actions, this idea is simply unreasonable. Such a resurrection would only weaken the disciples’ impression, make them sad and cause disappointment. And certainly not turn their grief into excitement, nor their fear into worship.” (Dr. Strauss)
Rabbi Asor’s claim is not only illogical from a philosophical and historical point of view but also from a scientific point of view. John describes something that only today science can explain. When Yeshua was crucified, a Roman soldier pierced his side. In the NT John explains:
“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34)
2000 years ago this certainly seemed odd. Why did John bother pointing this out?
Today, we know what physiology teaches: When a human dies the blood in his body separates into serum: a transparent liquid like water and red blood cells. Without knowing, John proved scientifically that Yeshua was indeed dead.
Okay, so he really died.
BUT MAYBE HIS DISCIPLES STOLE THE CORPSE?Anyone who knows about the Roman guard system, knows that this is impossible. Ancient Roman soldiers would never let this happen; out of fear for their own lives. Let’s suppose Yeshua’s disciples managed to trick the soldiers or somehow drug them.
Moving a stone weighing two tons would alert everyone, awake or asleep. And if that were the case, immediately the rabbis of the Sanhedrin as well as the Roman authorities, would have made a public outcry and retrieved the stolen corpse in front of everyone.
This obviously, did not happen.
And don’t forget that Yeshua was buried in the grave of the Sanhedrin member, Joseph of Arimathea. Which means that next to the Roman guards there were others that had an eye on the grave.
Furthermore, the stolen corpse theory fails to explain away how Yeshua appeared to so many people and over such a long period of time.
By the way, if today it is almost impossible to make a corpse disappear how much more so back in that day without elaborate technology or getaway cars.
Pay attention to what Dr. Jeff Burkes says, a famous Jewish surgeon from New York, who won an award thanks to his expertise in identifying bodies in the wake of the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. As a Jew, he decided to publish his story and argues, among other things, that after thoroughly examining the matter of Yeshua’s resurrection he came to the conclusion that Yeshua is indeed the Messiah:
“Yeshua’s resurrection is real. With all the archaeology and technology nobody ever could find his body. And it’s almost impossible to get rid of a corpse. And if his resurrection is true everything he said is true as well. Therefore, He is the promised Jewish Messiah.” (Dr. Jeff Burkes)
BUT MAYBE THE MOST CONVINCING TESTIMONY IS THE LIFE OF THE FIRST BELIEVERS, AFTER THE RESURRECTED YESHUA APPEARED TO THEM. IN THEIR EXCITEMENT, THEY BEGAN TRAVELING THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, FULL OF ENERGY, JOY, HOPE AND OPTIMISM. They worked miracles and wonders in the name of Yeshua in front of everyone. Miracles that even the Talmud describes as supernatural. They gave up their own honor, their possessions, their social status and as it seems, also many of their relationships.
And for what? To be scorned, cursed, persecuted, to be beaten and stoned and eventually die as lions’ prey, on the cross, being stoned and burned alive by those trying to silence them.
But even then, they were full of joy and thanksgiving and sang praise songs to God. They were people of peace, never used violence or forced their faith on anyone. On the contrary, they were so sure of their faith in Yeshua that they were willing to even die for his name. And also today, whoever believes in Yeshua the Messiah has the same absolute certainty just like those Messianic Jews 2000 years ago: That the crucified Messiah conquered death and granted us eternal life.
IN A SENSE, YESHUA RISING FROM THE DEAD WASN’T MEANT TO BE A BIG SURPRISE SINCE THE BIBLE ALREADY GAVE US PROPHECIES ABOUT HIS RESURRECTION. To see for example a video about the prophecy in Isaiah 53 about the rejection, death and resurrection of the Messiah, follow this link. If all this is so, we should not be surprised that in 2nd temple Judaism they expected that when the Messiah comes he’ll die and rise again.
Professor Israel Knohl scholar for religion from Hebrew University, Jerusalem decoded an archaeological inscription, dated before Christ, that points to a vision about the resurrection of a messianic leader. The stone inscription was named “Vision of Gabriel”. Pay attention to this: Professor Knohl explains that the angel Gabriel will three days after his death resurrect a messianic leader, called “Prince of Princes”. He is the leader of Israel. Professor Knohl says:
“It can be determined that when the vision was written, at the end of the 1st century BC, prevailed in some circles the view that the Messiah’s death and resurrection after three days is a vital part of the salvation plan. Therefore, if there was a Jewish tradition of a resurrected Messiah we understand Yeshu as the national Jewish Messiah that is going to his death.” (Prof. Israel Knohl)
Amazing, isn’t it?
Long before the rabbinical tradition seized control over Judaism the people of Israel believed that the Messiah had to die and rise from the dead on the third day, just as it happened with Yeshua. Yeshua conquered for us humanity’s biggest enemy: death. So that we would inherit eternal life. And before he ascended, he promised that the Holy Spirit, just as he dwelled in the temple, will dwell in those who believe in him. And he can live in you as well!